Symbol of the Month – Lion’s Paws

 

This month’s Symbol is a little bit of fun.

These lion’s feet supporting two sarcophagi within London’s Brompton Cemetery almost look comical – it’s as if they may just get up and run away at any moment carrying their cargo!

But, if you look closely, then you can see how detailed they are especially with the hair around the ankles and the claws. They are unusual as I don’t see them that often. But there are examples to be found in other cemeteries. For example, there is one within Norwich’s Rosary Cemetery.

The Cozens monument in the Rosary cemetery, Norwich. It’s made from cast iron which was originally painted black. It records Jeremiah Cozens and other members of the Cozens family.
© Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk

The sarcophagus is made from cast iron and was originally painted black.  It is dedicated to the memory of Jeremiah Cozens who died aged 32 in 1849.  There are other members of the Cozens family commemorated on different sides of the sarcophagus.  Also, Mrs Bradley’s monument in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee, USA features a magnificent set of paws.

The lion represents strength which is demonstrated by the paws supporting the sarcophagus. They have appeared as decorative devices in Ancient Greece and Rome. These were often known as ‘claw feet’ or ‘paw feet’ and were usually either a lion or a bear’s foot.  They also appeared during the Renaissance and into the 17th and 18th century in French and English furniture.  This magnificent example dates from the Renaissance.  Although this sarcophagus has been dated to the 5th century the lions paws were added after the 15th century. It comes from Ravenna, Italy.

This sarcophagus was used as a grave for an Archbishop of Ravenna. The lion’s paws were added after the 15th century although the sarcophagus dates from the 5th century.
©://www.romeartlover.it/Ravenna4.html

 

So the use of lion’s paws probably originated in the Classical world as did the sarcophagus form itself. It’s a stone coffin that was used for burials and the word ‘sarcophagus’ comes from the Greek for ‘flesh-eater’.  With the rediscovery and use of Classicism within Victorian cemeteries such as Brompton it’s appropriate to find two elements from it.  Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome motifs appeared in many Victorian cemeteries and Classicism was one of the first major artistic movements to be represented within them.

These two examples are very plain apart from the wildly extravagant carved hair on the ankles of the paws.  They are both dedicated to women; Catherine Ferrall Carmichael and Charlotte Hooffstetter.

Catherine who died, aged 88, on 21 April 1853 was the widow of Major Hugh Lyle Carmichael.  He was the Lieutenant Governor of British Guiana from 1812 until his death, aged 49, in 1813. According to Wikipedia:

 ‘He was a strong proponent of giving native Caribbean troops the same rights as ordinary British soldiers.’

He is buried in Demerara where there is a monument to him. This is the link to the wikipeadia page about him: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Lyle_Carmichael

Sadly, I’ve been unable to discover anything much about Catherine. There is an epitaph on one side of the sarcophagus of which I can only read two lines so she may have to be a Work in Progress.

Charlotte Hooffstetter is recorded on one side of her sarcophagus as being:

…’the 2nd wife of Charles Hooffstetter Esq

Nee Charlotte Gasquet

Obt on 31st August 1861 at 77.

 

According to an inscription on side of the sarcophagus she lived in Thurloe Square with Charles at what is still a swanky address.  They had one daughter, Sophia, who died in 1854 and Charles Hooffstetter died on 30 September 1870. The names of other family members are inscribed on the other sides of the sarcophagus.  But, again, I can find out nothing more about her. According to Find a Grave even her birth date is unknown and Charles proved to be just as illusory. So Charlotte will have to be another Work in Progress.

 

I also found a magnificent example on the Henniker monument within Rochester Cathedral.

The sarcophagus and lion’s feet were immensely popular and could be adapted to many other decorative uses.  I found several examples of much smaller sarcophagi and lion’s paws on vintage and antique websites where they were being offered as wine coolers and collarettes amongst other uses.  They would look very good on a sideboard or in a gentleman’s study.

But nowadays lion’s paws are more likely to be supporting an ‘antique’ revival bath tub which is a different container for a body altogether!

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=X3FjAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=paw+foot+furniture&source=bl&ots=adue3S9yfZ&sig=VPhDuMvb76W8LHyy02CZ-wzZKNE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0yOu48NvYAhWjKMAKHWLfDFo4ChDoAQhRMAk#v=onepage&q=paw%20fo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paw_feet

https://www.si.edu/ahhp/smithsons_symbolism

https://www.google.com/search?q=lsarcopahgi+with+lions+paws&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwiYy63th9LnAhXF_IUKHZLEAy8Q2-cCegQIABAA&oq=lsarcopahgi+with+lions+paws&gs_l=img.3…190039.196641..197488…0.0..0.62.1335.27……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0i67j0j0i131j0i5i10i30j0i5i30j0i24j0i10i24.peZ9RteRhGY&ei=IBtHXpi7GcX5lwSSiY_4Ag&bih=969&biw=1920#imgrc=r4Ue1MRSDSt5KM

https://www.romeartlover.it/Ravenna4.html

http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=940

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/elmwood-cemetery-lions-paw-jon-woodhams.html

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Symbol(s) of the Month – A quiver of Arrows and garland of oak leaves

A closer view of the two symbols – the bow and quiver of arrows and the oak leaves. Note the acorn.
©Carole Tyrrell

A country churchyard on a warm, sunny May day can be a peaceful and interesting place to explore. All Saints churchyard in Staplehurst is one of those as it looks down over the village from its hilltop perch.

I have already discussed one of the symbols that I found in there which featured in a an earlier Symbol of the Month. This was ‘The Choice’ which I found in the older part of the churchyard.  After exploring the newer part of the churchyard and seeing ‘nature’s lawnmowers’ aka sheep in the field behind I returned to the older section.  I then discovered this headstone with a combination of two symbols on it.

At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that this is the grave of a warrior or someone involved in warfare as the combination is formed from a bow, a quiver of arrows and a circlet of oak leaves.  The bow and arrows are a symbol that has been known for centuries and since the earliest times has been associated with hunting and survival.

The headstone is dedicated to Edwin Fitch who died at the fairly young age of 43 on 22 January 1869. The epitaph goes on to state that Edwin left behind a widow and two children; Marianne and Walter William.  There is also another inscription above it that states that the stone was erected as a mark of respect by the Staplehurst Cricket Club.

The epitaph to Edwin Fitch in Staplehurst churchyard.
©Carole Tyrrell

But, as with most symbols, there are other meanings and I am indebted to theartofmourning blog for reminding me of these.   For, although a cricket field can occasionally turn into a polite and gentlemanly battlefield, I was sure that there were softer connotations to the bow and quiver.

The other most obvious interpretation is of Cupid shooting his arrows of love straight to a lover’ s heart. Indeed, he is traditionally portrayed holding a bow with an arrow ready to aim and fire. There are also the famous lines in William Blake’s poem, ‘Jerusalem’:

‘Bring me my bow of burning gold

Bring me my arrows of desire.’

There is also a Biblical link with children. In Psalms 127:3-5 children are described as being:

‘Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.

I interpret this to mean that a man’s children will continue his family line and achieve their place in the world.

The oak leaves underneath the quiver and bow are an ancient symbol of strength and the oak was known as the tree of life in pre-Christian times. According to memorials.com it is believed to have been the tree from which Christ’s cross was made.

Close-up of the acorn featured on the Fitch headstone.
©Carole Tyrrell

An acorn is also depicted on the headstone which emphasises immortality and fertility.  There is the old saying  ‘ Mighty oaks from little acorns do grow’  and this may be a reference to Edwin’s children and his hopes they would go onto do great things.  An acorn is the seed of the oak and so is a symbol of potential.

 

Edwin had an untimely death and we don’t know if he, his family or members of the Cricket Club chose the symbols.  But I believe that it was a final message from him to his family that he left behind and that this thoughts were of hope.

There is also a small verse underneath the epitaph:

‘My wife and children dear I bid you all adieu,

By God’s commands I leave this world and you

And trust my friends whom I have left behind

May give you comfort, and to you be kind.’

In this Edwin clearly hopes that his friends will support his family after he has gone. The Fitch family may have been in financial straits with the death of Edwin as the Cricket Club provided the headstone.

I have found out more about Edwin and his family.  He married Maria Wickings on 9 September 1852 and they had three children together.

  • Marianne born in 1853
  • Walter William born in 1855
  • Charles born in 1858

Sadly, Charles appears to have been stillborn or may have died in childbirth as he was born and christened on the same day and is not recorded on Edwin’s epitaph. Marianne followed her father to the grave in 1875 aged just 22.

I have approached the existing Staplehurst Cricket Club for further information on Edwin but the present club has only been in existence since the 1950’s.  They thought that Edwin might have been the very first member but are undertaking further research.  One current member thought that there might have been a private Staplehurst Cricket Club associated with the nearby Iden Manor.

This is now a nursing home but was once the house of the Hoare banking family. There are members of this family buried in the churchyard.  In 1904 they sold the manor due to impending bankruptcy and they were well known in the area for holding cricket and football matches, flower shows and other events for the village.

Finally, I think that this is a poignant combination of symbols that left a powerful and comforting message to his family.  A man whose last thoughts may have been of his family and now lies under the green canopy of the tall trees of Staplehurst churchyard with his beloved daughter.

 

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References and further reading:

https://artofmourning.com/2011/01/09/symbolism-sunday-the-arrow-and-quiver/

https://www.memorials.com/Headstones-Symbolism-information.php

https://stoneletters.com/blog/gravestone-symbols

http://headstonesymbols.co.uk/headstone-meanings-and-symbols/acorn/

http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html

http://www.staplehurstsociety.org

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54684/jerusalem-and-did-those-feet-in-ancient-time

https://biblehub.com/kjv/psalms/127.htm

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+127%3A3-5&version=NIV

http://mlesdes.eklablog.com/england-s-national-symbols-free-article-a92748989